04 Sep 2021, 20:52

Formulating strong tobacco control law stressed to safeguard public health

DHAKA, Sept 4, 2021 (BSS) - Speakers at a virtual discussion today laid emphasis on enacting strong tobacco control law as consumption of tobacco has emerged as huge threat to public health during COVID-19 pandemic.   

Only a strong law can offer public health a much-needed protection from adverse impact of tobacco, they told the discussion titled  "Covid-19 and the Need for Strong Tobacco Control Law".

PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) organized the discussion.

At the discussion, consumption of tobacco causes deaths and contributes to the spread of covid-19 infections, the speakers added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco products do not only facilitate Covid-19 infection with frequent hand-to-mouth contact of users, but also increase the risk of serious illness once infected with novel coronavirus. In Bangladesh, about 40 million adults who use tobacco products are currently at grave risk of severe coronavirus infection, the speakers added.  

Member of Parliaments (MPs), economists, cultural figures, journalists and public health experts said during a webinar titled "Covid-19 and the Need for Strong Tobacco Control Law", jointly organized by PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA).

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, said, " We have to work together to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh."

He stressed the need for formulation of a strong tobacco law to materialize the vision of Prime Minister to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh.

During the webinar, PROGGA and ATMA placed the following demands to be included in the tobacco control law:

These are remove the provision of “designated smoking zone” and ban smoking in all public places, work spaces, and public transports to ensure an absolute tobacco free environment, ban the display of tobacco products at points of sale, ban ‘corporate social responsibility’ activities of tobacco companies
The demand also include prohibiting the sale of single sticks and unpackaged smokeless tobacco, the sale and import of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, allowing  for stricter rules on packaging including increases to the size of graphic health warnings.

Eminent economist and the convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, “The proposal calling for ban on loose sale of tobacco products is an important one. We must make it happen."

"In addition to law amendment, we must work to create social awareness regarding detrimental effects of tobacco,” he added.

Media personality Abul Hayat urged the government not to consider tobacco as a source of revenue as it causes serious diseases including cancer and heart disease.   

Editor-in-Chief of TV Today Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul said, “If we really want to realize the Prime Minister's vision of a tobacco-free Bangladesh, we must amend the tobacco control law at the earliest.”

Dr. Syed Mahfuzul Huq, National Professional Officer (NCD), World Health Organization (WHO) said smokers hospitalized with Covid-19 have been found to be at much greater risk of severe illness and death. Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Bangladesh said, “Tobacco companies display their products in such a manner so that it draws the attention of the children and adolescents. Such unethical practice should be stopped.”
The event was hosted by Nadira Kiron, Co-convener, ATMA. The amendment proposals were presented by Md. Hasan Shahriar, Project Head, Tobacco Control, PROGGA while ABM Zubair, Executive Director, PROGGA and representatives of anti-tobacco organizations and media outlets, among others, also attended the discussion.


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